Travels to Israel: The Garden of Gethsemane & Church of All Nations (Basilica of the Agony)

Although it is said that the exact location of the Garden of Gethsemane is unknown, there are many reasons that point to this location being the most likely location of where it would have been.

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     The Garden of Gethsemane was full of olive trees and the literal translation actually means “olive press.” The olives that were harvested from this garden were pressed to make olive oil that was of such high quality that it was reserved for kings. Is it any wonder that this is where Jesus was praying the night before His crucifixion? He was about to be pressed like these olives for the sins of all mankind.
     Today, if you choose to visit the Garden of Gethsemane (which I highly recommend if you are visiting Jerusalem, it is worth it), then you will still find a garden of olive trees* that are indeed thousands of years old.
     There is also a church called the “Church of All Nations” or Basilica of the Agony. It is absolutely stunning. From the outside, the large columns protrude from the building and a large colorful painting covers the top front part of the church building. You can look up at it but I definitely recommend crossing the street to get a better view.
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The church photo taken from across the street.
    At the entrance, there is a sculpture of an olive tree constructed from iron that you can’t miss as you enter the church. As I walked in the church I was in awe of the beautiful purple stained glass windows, the colorful array of mosaics and the massive dome that is the canvas to even more elaborate paintings.
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    The church is dark inside for the purpose of remembering that this is the Garden of Gethsemane. It was here that Jesus prayed in such deep sorrow before He was handed over to be crucified. The Word describes it best.

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” Matthew 26:36-46

     This was definitely worth visiting and I am so grateful that I got to visit it in person. If you have the opportunity and you’re interested, I would definitely add this as a place to visit.
*Factoid: olive trees can live and produce fruit for literally thousands of years. Ponder: could some of these trees been the same trees that existed when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane. 

Red Lentil Meatless Meatballs (Malhitali Köfte)

A tender, delicious, savory, meat-less version of a meatball backed with bulgur, lentils and veggies.

     Yet again, this is another great köfte (Turkish for “meatball”) recipe. Instead of meat, it’s packed full of bulgur, red lentils, vegetables and spices. They are a flavorful addition to your menu for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.

Here’s the recipe:

(Lentil Meatless Meatballs) Malhitali Köfte

  • 14 oz red lentils
  • 12 oz fine bulgur
  • 2 onions (diced)
  • 5 scallions (diced)
  • 5 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 2 bunches of parsley (finely chopped)
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 1 1/4 c olive oil
  • 3/4 c tomato paste
  • 1 TBSP red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • salt & pepper (to taste)

Preparation:

Place the lentils in a large stock pot with water and salt. Simmer the lentils for 10-15 minutes or until they are tender. 

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Stir in the bulgur, tomato paste, red pepper flakes, cumin, salt and pepper and continue to cook until the bulgur is done (adding a little more water if needed, but the mixture will be very thick).

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In a small frying pan add the butter and olive oil. Once they are hot, add the onions and fry until they are tender. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. 

Transfer the lentils and bulgur mixture to a large shallow bowl. Then add the onions and stir well.

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Transfer to a clean work space and knead the mixture until it’s well combined.

Then add the scallions and parsley and continue kneading for 2-3 minutes.

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Then take gold ball size pieces in your hand and roll into an oval shape. Then using your fingers, shape it to resemble a piece of dough with an imprint of your fingers on one side. NOTE: This is a special technique that takes some practice. Alternatively, you can just roll it into the oval shape.

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Serve and enjoy!

Afiyet Olsun!

Turkish Green Bean & Yogurt Soup

Savory and flavorful, this soup packs a punch. Creamy and thick, it’s packed with meat, chickpeas, vegetables and saffron.

Here’s the recipe:

Turkish Green Bean & Yogurt Soup

  • 500g stew beef chunks
  • 500g green beans (blanched)
  • 1400g suzme yogurt (or any thick yogurt)
  • 1 egg
  • 4 scallions (white parts only)
  • 1 1/2 c chickpeas (canned & drained or pre-boiled)
  • 1 TBSP saffron
  • salt & pepper (to taste)

Preparation:

In a large stock pot, boil the beef with salt and pepper and 2 liters of water for 15 minutes.

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Add the chickpeas and continue to boil for 10 minutes. 20180112_094655

Then add the green beans, scallions and saffron and continue to simmer for 15 minutes.

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In a bowl, whisk the yogurt and the egg until smooth. Transfer to a sauce pot and warm the yogurt mixture over low heat, stirring occasionally.

Add a few ladles of the soup into the yogurt, stirring constantly (to temper the yogurt). Then pour the entire yogurt mixture into the soup, stirring constantly.

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Serve and Enjoy!

Afiyet Olsun!

 

 

Turkish Meat Pie (Sini Köfte)

Flavorful ground beef, pistachios, walnuts and almonds are layered between finely ground bulgur to make a savory meat pie.
Here’s the recipe:
Sini Köfte
  • 1.5 lbs lean ground beef
  • 3 c finely ground bulgur
  • 4 onions (finely diced)
  • 2 T red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp saffron
  • 1 T raw pistachios
  • 1 T raw walnuts
  • 1 T raw almonds
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 4 T butter
  • 4 T tomato paste
  • salt & pepper (to taste)
Preparation:
Sauté the ground beef until browned. Then add the onions, pistachios, walnuts, pistachios, olive oil, saffron, salt and pepper and stir. Set aside.
Meanehile, add 1 cup of water to the tomato paste and stir. Pour into the simit and knead together. Divide the mixture in half.
In a large circular pan, layer half of the simit on the bottom. Flatten like a pie crust.
Then add the beef mixture evenly on top.
Then shape the rest of the simit into a flatten circle on a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper(the size of the pan).
Place on top amd press gently.
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Then cut into squares using a sharp knife and dipping it in water with each cut.
Bake in the oven on 375 for 15-20 minutes.
Spritz with water and then bake again for 15-20 minutes.
Serve and enjoy!
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Afiyet Olsun!

Roasted Rib Rice Pilaf (Kapamali Pirinc Pilav)

Tender saffron yogurt coated ribs are tenderized and roasted to perfection to top a plate full of rice pilaf. 

     For this recipe, the ribs do most of their cooking in a pressure cooker. Then they are coated with a mixture of yogurt and saffron and roasted until perfection.

Meanwhile, the rice pilaf is prepared and complimented by a few chickpeas to enhance the flavor and texture.

Once the ribs are done, they top the pilaf and create a satisfying and hearty meal.

Here’s the recipe:

Roasted Rib Rice Pilaf (Kapamali Pirinc Pilav)

  • 3 lbs beef ribs
  • 3 c rice
  • 4 T butter
  • 1 tsp saffron
  • 2 T thick yogurt
  • 3/4 c chickpeas
  • Salt & pepper (to taste)

Preparation:

Place the ribs in a pressure cooker and cover with water. Cook for 60-90 minutes.
In a small bowl mix together the yogurt and the saffron.
Remove the ribs from the pressure cooker. Drain the liquid and reserve.
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Coat the ribs with the saffron yogurt and place in a 375 F oven for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
Place 6-7 cups of the reserved broth in a large stock pot.
Add the rice, chickpeas, salt and pepper. Stir & cover. Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the rice is tender.
To serve, plate the pilaf and top with the ribs.
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Afiyet Olsun!

Chicken Tikka Masala

Creamy, flavorful and seasoned masala sauce with tender pieces of marinated chicken.

The perfect blend of spices with tomatoes create a delicious “masala” or sauce for this dish. The chicken is marinated in a thick yogurt mixture and is tender, flavorful and so good. If you think marinades are not worth the work, then you’ll love how simple this one and the final result of the tender chicken.

A classic Indian dish, Chicken Tikka Masala is found on restaurant menus all over the world. But making it at home is a rewarding and delicious treat and perhaps not as complicated as you imagined.

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Here’s the recipe:

Chicken Tikka Masala

  • 1 lb boneless skin-less chicken breasts (diced)
  • 1/2 c thick yogurt
  • 1/2 lemon (juiced)
  • 1.5 onions (diced)
  • 4 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1.5 inch piece of ginger (diced)
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 2 tomatoes (peeled and chopped)
  • 2 T cumin powder
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 T dried oregano
  • 2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 – 1/2 c cream (if desired)
  • salt & pepper (to taste)

Preparation:

To marinate the chicken: place the chicken, yogurt, lemon juice, half of an onion, a half-inch piece of ginger, 1 T cumin powder, 1 T dried oregano, salt and pepper in a bowl. Stir to combine and then cover with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator overnight.

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To make the chicken tikka masala:

Place the spices in a dry frying pan and toast just until they are fragrant.

Sauté the onions, garlic and ginger in a frying pan with the sunflower oil until tender.

Add the spices and stir thoroughly.

Add the chicken and sauté  until cooked through.

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Then add the tomato paste, season with salt and pepper and stir until well coated.

Then add the chopped tomatoes and 1.5 cups of hot water. Stir and then cover with a lid. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Then remove from the heat and stir in the cream.

Serve over a bed of rice or with bread.

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Enjoy!

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Guten Appetit!

 

 

A Traditional Turkish Coffeehouse: Tahmis Kahvesi

Take a trip back in time to simpler era. No cell phones. No laptops. No email. Taking a coffee break at Tahmis Khavesi takes you back to the essence of enjoying a good cup of coffee with good company.

One of the oldest coffeehouses in Turkey, founded in 1635 it is a treasure to visit. The decorative copper pitchers in the stained glass windows, the traditional chandeliers and the classic wood furnishings, it’s such a beautiful place to enjoy a Turkish coffee.

In the winter you’ll be warmly welcomed by the large wood burning heater that is in the middle of the building as soon as you walk in the door. If you venture up the stairs, you’ll be delighted to sit in upper level that overlooks the entire place.

There are games and books and it’s not unusual for people to play some traditional games or read but mostly you’ll just notice people enjoying the company of those that they are with.

“One neither desires coffee nor a coffeehouse. One desires to talk with others, coffee is but an excuse.” A Turkish saying.

 

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Drinking Turkish coffee is such a wonderful experience. Like espresso, it’s served in a small cup and it’s stronger than an average cup of coffee. But unlike espresso, it has a layer of foam on top and a thick layer at the bottom; This part, you don’t drink. The coffee is rich, thick and robust.

Turkish coffee is always served with water and frequently with Turkish delight, chocolate or some sort of snack. The sweet is meant to balance out the strong flavor of the coffee. While Turkish delight is the most traditional option, a little piece of chocolate it becoming more common.

When ordering your coffee, you can either order it without sugar “sade,” a little sugar “az sekerli, an average amount of sugar “sorta sekerli” or very sweet, “sekerli.” No matter what you’re preference, you’re in for a treat!

At Tahmis Khavesi the Turkish coffee is served with some roasted nuts and water. It’s brought to your table in an elegant coffee cup and when you remove the lid, you unveil the beautiful aroma of the steaming Turkish coffee. With one sip, you’ll taste the robust flavor and thick foam. It’s so good. Savor every sip until you reach the thick layer of grounds, which concludes the cup of coffee.

So if you’re looking to experience the best of traditional and modern, then a visit to Tahmis Kahvesi is a must. It’s a one of a kind experience for coffee lovers everywhere.

P.s. Also try the Menengiç coffee (made from the roast berries from pistachio trees) or a classic cup of Turkish tea! Or buy some coffee to take home with you!

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